VIRGINIA BEACH-- The government shutdown is delaying the investigation into hundreds of dead dolphins that have been washing ashore.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, more than 300 dolphins have been stranded between New York and North Carolina since July 1. That's more than nine times the historical average for the region during July and August.

The Virginia Aquarium is still retrieving dead dolphins, but the NOAA is not testing the tissue samples because the federal agency has been put on hold due to the government shutdown.

'It means that we will experience a delay in determining how much of the dolphin population is affected by the virus, 'Linda Candler at the Virginia Aquarium explained.

Candler said the Virginia Aquarium has frozen the tissue samples, and the investigation will continue once all government work resumes.

The NOAA says the tentative cause of the deaths is the cetacean morbillivirus. Dolphins with morbillivirus typically experience skin lesions, brain infections and pneumonia. The virus killed off more than 700 dolphins in the 1980s.

The disease is passed from dolphin to dolphin. It can't be transmitted to humans.

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